How to Get Health Insurance Without a Job

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More than 50% of people in the United States get health insurance through their employer. It’s the most common way to get medical coverage. But if you’ve lost your job, you might be wondering how to get health insurance. 

We’ll explain how to get health insurance without a job and what plans are available. Also, we’ll take a look at how much health insurance costs without a job so you can choose a plan that fits within your budget. 

Know Your Options

If you want to buy health insurance without a job, you have a few options. Unemployed people can get medical insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you don’t meet the criteria for a Marketplace plan, you can also consider a short-term health insurance plan or apply for Medicaid. 

Health Insurance Marketplace Plans

Health Insurance marketplace plans are sold through a federal or state website where you can compare plans and purchase coverage.

To get a marketplace plan, you must be a non-incarcerated U.S. citizen or U.S. national living in the U.S.

Marketplace plans tend to be affordable—some individuals and families can qualify for premium tax credits that reduce their premiums. Another advantage of the Health Insurance Marketplace is that insurers can’t deny you for having pre-existing health conditions. 

Although the state and federal marketplaces are a popular way to get health insurance without a job, you can only purchase coverage during certain times. Marketplace plans are sold during Open Enrollment, which happens every year from November 1 through January 15.

However, you may be able to enroll in a plan during a special enrollment period (SEP) if you lost your health insurance coverage outside of Open Enrollment. This allows you to purchase a plan within 60 days of losing coverage, anytime during the year. You can also qualify for a SEP if you recently moved states, got married, had a baby, or adopted a child.

Short-Term Health Insurance

Short-term health insurance plans are sold through private insurance companies. They typically provide coverage for one year or less—some plans offer three months or six months of coverage.

Short-term health insurance plans tend to offer less coverage and fewer benefits, so they often have lower premiums than other health insurance types. 

If you qualify for premium tax credits through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you can’t use them to purchase a short-term health plan.

When you apply for a short-term health insurance plan, the insurance company will ask questions about your current health and medical history. If you have any pre-existing conditions, the insurer may deny you coverage.

Additionally, some states have tight restrictions for or prohibitions of short-term health plans. As a result, you currently cannot buy plans in the following states: 

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Rhode Island

Medicaid

Medicaid is a health insurance program that the federal government and individual states jointly fund. It provides free or low-cost health insurance benefits to certain groups, like Americans with low incomes and individuals with disabilities.

Medicaid eligibility is based on income requirements that vary by state. Your family information, like the number of children you have and their ages, can also impact your eligibility.

If you have children who need health insurance coverage, but your income is too high for Medicaid, consider the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Depending on your location, CHIP may provide health benefits for pregnant women, too.

You can apply for Medicaid through the Health Insurance Marketplace or your state’s Medicaid agency.

Assess Your Needs 

When you purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you can choose your plan design and level of coverage. Every plan has a metal tier—bronze, silver, gold, or platinum—which corresponds to the amount of coverage you receive. Bronze plans tend to provide the least amount of coverage (60% of costs after deductible) with the lowest premiums. Platinum plans usually provide the most coverage (90% of costs after deductible) with the highest premiums. 

Before you enroll in a plan, it’s important to assess your coverage needs. Here are a few recommended plan types depending on how often you need medical care.

Infrequent Medical Care

If you’re in excellent health and only want health insurance for emergencies, you might benefit from a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). An HDHP, which is typically a bronze plan, has a high deductible but low premiums—an ideal choice if you use your health insurance infrequently.

An HDHP has a deductible of $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family, and an annual out-of-pocket maximum of $7,050 for an individual or $14,100 for a family.

Occasional Medical Care

If you need occasional medical care or want to pay less out-of-pocket for your routine care, a silver plan may be a good option. Silver plans have moderate premiums and pay for 70% of covered costs after deductible. A silver plan deductible is lower than a bronze plan deductible, but silver plans tend to have higher premiums.

Additionally, if you qualify for any cost-sharing reductions, you must choose a silver plan to lower your out-of-pocket costs, like your deductible, copayment, and annual maximum.

Frequent Medical Care

If you visit the doctor regularly and need continuous medical care, a gold plan might be the best choice. Gold plans have higher monthly premiums than bronze or silver plans, but you pay less out-of-pocket (20%) when you go to the doctor.

For the most coverage, look into a platinum plan—these plans have the highest premiums out of all the metal tiers, but they also have the lowest costs when you need covered medical care.

Research Health Insurance Companies

To narrow down the list of the best providers, research reputable companies and compare them to find the best insurer for your needs. Here are some ratings you should look at when comparing companies.

NAIC Complaint Index

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) maintains a database of insurance company complaints. Each company has an index based on the number of complaints it receives in relation to the total premiums it writes.

A company with an average number of complaints for its size has an index of 1.00. Companies with more complaints than expected have an index above 1.00, and companies with fewer complaints than expected have an index below 1.00.

Healthcare.gov Star Rating

Healthcare.gov uses star ratings to determine how good a particular health insurance plan is. Plans are given an overall quality rating between 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) stars.

The criteria used for star ratings include member experience, medical care, and plan administration. Healthcare.gov also assigns each plan a star rating for these three individual factors. 

AM Best

AM Best is a credit rating organization that issues letter grades to insurance companies based on their financial strength. Letter grades range from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor). When grading insurance companies, AM Best considers factors like balance sheet strength, operating performance, and enterprise risk management.

Insurance companies with the best financial strength scores (A- grades and above) have an excellent or superior ability to meet policyholder obligations. When selecting a health insurance company, look for insurers with A- ratings or higher.

J.D. Power

J.D. Power publishes an annual report called the “U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study.” The study measures customer satisfaction as reported by members of the biggest health insurance companies in various regions of the U.S.

J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction ratings are based on criteria like billing and payment, price, coverage and benefits, provider choices, and customer service. Each company in the study gets a score; aim for an insurer that scores at least above the industry average.

Best Health Insurance Companies

We selected the best health insurance companies based on cost, coverage, maximum out-of-pocket expenses, and other key factors.

Best Health Insurance Companies for Marketplace Plans

Best Short-Term Health Insurance Companies

Compare Health Insurance Insurance Quotes

When choosing a health insurance plan, cost is one of the most important factors to consider, but other factors are key parts of your medical care, too. Here are some things to keep in mind as you compare health insurance quotes.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Most health insurance plans have out-of-pocket costs that you pay when you receive medical care. Plans with high out-of-pocket costs have lower premiums, and vice versa.

If you choose a plan with high out-of-pocket costs, make sure you have enough cash on hand to cover your deductible, coinsurance, and copayments. Also, some lower-cost ACA plans don’t have coinsurance or copayments until you reach your deductible, which is something to keep in mind as you compare plans.

Network Size

Health insurance plans work with a network of approved doctors, specialists, and medical facilities (“in-network”).

Some plans, like PPO plans, cover your medical care when you go in-network and also provide a limited amount of coverage when you go out-of-network. Other plans, like HMO plans, only cover your medical care when you go in-network unless it’s an emergency.

If you want access to the most doctors and hospitals, you will want to choose a health plan that covers in-network and out-of-network care. However, these plans tend to be more expensive. 

Coverage and Benefits

Platinum and gold marketplace health plans provide the most coverage, but they have the highest premiums. Silver and bronze plans have the lowest premiums, but they also offer the least amount of coverage.

You should also pay attention to the benefits offered. All ACA-compliant health plans provide coverage for 10 essential health benefits, which include routine doctor visits, hospital care, pregnancy, childbirth, prescriptions, pediatric dental care, and mental health services.

However, some plans provide additional benefits, like vision care and health management programs. When you compare plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace, you can see what each plan does and doesn’t cover.

Review Policy Terms and Exclusions

While ACA-compliant plans provide comprehensive coverage for many medical services, every plan has terms and exclusions.

For example, some health plans might cover alternative therapies, like acupuncture, when it’s medically necessary. However, others might not cover acupuncture at all, even when your doctor recommends it.

If you take prescription medications, you should also compare plans to see if your medications are covered. All ACA-compliant health insurance plans cover prescription drugs, but some plans might exclude coverage for specific medications or might only cover generic drugs.

Use the comparison tool on the Health Insurance Marketplace website or on your state’s health exchange site to compare plans. You can select several plans and compare the costs and benefits side-by-side.

Final Word

Being unemployed shouldn’t stop you from purchasing health insurance. If you don’t have a job, there are several ways to get health insurance, whether you choose a marketplace plan, short-term health insurance plan, or apply for Medicaid. However, the best health insurance is different for every individual, so make sure to compare several providers based on cost, coverage, and third-party ratings.

Do I Need Health Insurance if I Quit My Job?

You aren’t required to get health insurance if you quit your job. However, you will lose your health insurance coverage once you are no longer employed unless you sign up for COBRA, which typically lasts for up to 18 months. Also, you can get a new health plan through the Marketplace.

Who Qualifies for Medicaid?

Medicaid eligibility is based on your income and household information, like the number of children you have. The exact income requirements are different in every state. You can apply for Medicaid in your state to find out if you qualify for coverage.

How Much Does Healthcare Cost?

The cost of health insurance depends on factors like your location, age, and income. For a single 25-year-old female with an $80,000 salary living in Miami-Dade County, Florida, the lowest premium for a bronze health plan ranges from $289 to $303 per month. For a gold plan, the lowest premium ranges from $386 to $432 per month.

What Happens If You Can’t Afford Healthcare?

If you can’t afford health insurance, you have a few options. See if you qualify for premium tax credits through the Health Insurance Marketplace or apply for Medicaid. If you qualify for Medicaid and have a low income or no income, you might be able to get coverage for free.